Livingstone set to win control of three London Tube lines

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Parts of the London Underground network are likely to be handed to Ken Livingstone because private firms bidding to run them cannot guarantee to provide value for money for taxpayers.

Contingency plans to give control of the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines to the Mayor of London are being prepared by the Government, The Independent has learnt.

The move follows "serious concerns" within Whitehall that a planned contract with a commercial consortium to run the three lines will prove too expensive for the taxpayer, government sources claim.

All other parts of the Tube network are still on course to be transferred to the private sector, but the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly (JNP) lines, which carry 600,000 people a day, would be handed to Bob Kiley, the Mayor's transport commissioner. The loss of such ann important element of its public-private partnership (PPP) would be a serious blow to the Government and a partial victory for Mr Livingstone's campaign against its plans.

Final bids for the contracts to run different parts of the Tube network from 1 April will be handed to London Underground by two commercial consortiums today. Tube Lines, made up of the construction giants Amey, Jarvis and Bechtel, is the preferred bidder for the JNP contract, while the rival Metronet organisation wants to run the two other contracts for the rest of the network.

A government source said: "It's not looking good for the Piccadilly, Jubilee and Northern Line contract. It's very difficult to see how the private sector can meet the value-for-money test for that bit of the PPP."